17 November 2006

39

Evidence 1944-1994 by Richard Avedon (4.5/5)

I think his headshot of Ezra Pound is my favorite. I'm not sure why: his eyes are squinted shut, the frame feels tight, a composition it's not likely I'd ever shoot, and yet it appeals to me. Or the two-shot of models in a cafe in Paris in 1948. It seems casual, a snapshot of friends chatting over a smoke, but to know Avedon's work is to realize his photos are meticulously designed. So cool. And so many shots I'd be proud, nay ecstatic, to say I had done... but landscape and architecture seem to be where my brain is fixed: that which is there as opposed to that which is conscientiously designed and/or fabricated.

The book is a compilation of 50 years worth of studio, exhibition, and fashion photography by Richard Avedon. With pages measuring 11"x14", one gets a nice view of the reproductions. Two essays, one by Jane Livingston and the other by Adam Gopnik, make up the text of the book. Livingston's essay "The Art of Richard Avedon" accompanies the photographs, revealing context and background information about the subjects of photos and Avedon's life and work of the time. Many quotes from Avedon regarding his work are also included as well as commentary on how various photos and exhibitions (and his presentation) were received by the public and art critics. The book is laid out very well in terms of matching up the text to the photos discussed. Most often, they exist within the same two-page spread.

Gopnik's essay "The Light Writer" is a bit of an oddity. It exists by itself with no photographic accompaniment and alternates mostly between a discussion of Avedon's book An Autobiography and a story about an afternoon with Avedon in New York City told in the 3rd person with details that could not be believed unless Gopnik was the friend accompanying Avedon on that excursion. The essay feels like it belongs in An Autobiography rather than here. (I probably would have given this book 5/5 if this essay were absent.)

Following the second essay is a photographic timeline coupling events from Avedon's life with exhibition pieces from the same time periods. A list of solo exhibitions, and an extensive bibliography split into books by Avedon and books about him are also included. A picture index completes the book. Even if you're not interested in the text, the book is a nice scale for perusing over 600 photographs.

One year ago at TTaT: Just wait five minutes, It's just my nature
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